Tag Archive: Parental Alienation

Day Seventeen


1397750153April 17th. No prompt except the date.

My daughter was born 14 years ago today. Even though it’s been more than a year since she’s been willing to see or speak to me, I can still close my eyes and go back to so many good times.

Kid coffee was always a special time of each day. I hope she can remember and smile too.


Kid Coffee

I make the Kid Coffee with special care
While she watches me, attentive, making sure
Our rituals are followed to perfection
Because I know to her Kid Coffee means Belong

I pour the cream into the Pyrex cup
And heat it in the microwave, just warm
Testing the temperature with my pinky
Before pouring it gingerly into the mug

I spoon in sugar, she knows the right amount
Approving with a two year old’s precision
And then I pour the coffee, just a taste
Enough to tint the sugared cream

And we sit together at the counter then
The two pajama’d ladies with our cups
She delights in the stir-sip stir-sip ahh
And I delight forevermore in that

~Liesl Dineen 2014


8359806When I wrote in my last blog post about where I was from, I didn’t expect to learn so much myself. The truth is, after writing down just those little snippets of my life, I began processing so many things at once. I think I’ll be at that for a while to come.

My poems started reflecting things, the cat that died, surviving disasters, stuff like that… My dreams started getting even more trippy than usual. I mean, the cast of characters spans 40 years of life, and stuff just gets weirder every night. I dream often of houses, filled with crazy nooks and hidden spots, and Escherian stairwells. The houses are all different, but all complicated and full of secrets. Almost every room in these houses contains something or someone that I have business with in some way. There’s ex-boyfriends and a few that got away, old friends, family, and lots and lots of children and babies, some mine, some not mine, all needing help, care, love, shelter, mothers.

And so I see how my life’s path bleeds into everything. Like how seeing a mother and young daughter at a store picking out fabric for bedroom curtains together takes me to those places and times when I was that mother, and my daughter and I spent time enjoying one another, shopping and looking at interesting things, sharing laughs. And I probably watch the two a little too closely, and a little too sadly, but I almost always look away before they notice. And while the wind blows through the hole in my heart, I try to relax and pretend it’s just a cool breeze. And I change the subject in my head before it can whisper my daughter’s name too loudly.

On the street I see people walking, favoring one side of their body, and I remember waiting for my smile to grow less crooked every day after the stroke. I try not to stare –  not only because it’s rude, but because they will assume I’m just staring at the asymmetry, and they won’t know that what I’m feeling is connection. They won’t know that I notice a little crooked in my smile every day still, and a little extra weakness on my left side that I’m working on at the gym three days a week. They won’t know that my throat is a little paralyzed on the left too, and that I have to watch how I swallow. They will think that I think they’re a freak show, and they won’t know that really I feel just the same inside.

At the store I see a mother struggle with a child most people think is “too old’ to have that kind of tantrum. I see the stares of the people around her, and the way others walk as fast as they can past something they don’t want to see. I want to yell on her behalf, you don’t know what it’s like, you don’t have a clue! I want to tell her that I do, I do know what it’s like, and I will never forget all the stores I had to leave, cart full of groceries or clothes, holding tight to a flailing child I could barely carry anymore. I want to tell her that she’s not alone, that I know she’s doing everything she can. I want to tell her it will get better. But of course, I can’t even begin to know that for her.

And so I go on through these pieces of life, every day moments, one after another, and I’m beginning to see where I fit, and where the moments fit, and I know that my past is a bunch of signposts that I followed and that I’m still following signposts. And I know that next year if I’m lucky there will be new things to notice and remember, and so on. And so forth.

Every day, I see how I fit into the world a little bit more. Every day I notice this change, because I was never someone who fit in. I know I’ll never be that stylish, snazzy looking woman with her head held at that perfect angle, hair flowing behind her as she walks gracefully in 3 inch heels. But there’s a place for me. I make it myself, more and more each day, and it’s mine, and I belong.


Day Three

From NaPWriMo.net:

I challenge you to write a charm – a simple rhyming poem, in the style of a recipe-slash-nursery rhyme. It could be a charm against warts, or against traffic tickets. It could be a charm to bring love, or to bring free pizzas from your local radio station.

For Sarah.

A charm to help you know the truth

A picture of us right by the sea,
A necklace that you made for me,
The cakes from parties your friends all adored,
One Monkey Too Many, in case you get bored,
The lullabies, sung with exhausted love,
And pick any Michael Jackson-type glove,
For perspective, the eye of a household fly,
And a journal that proves I wasn’t a spy,
A clock that shows all this ticking time,
And a sentence, far too big for the crime –
Toss them all right into the pot,
Now I pray you remember all you forgot.

~Liesl Dineen, 2014

What is lost


9243873I’ve tried to avoid the subject of loss so much this last year, and yet it’s everywhere. I’ve tackled depression with flair and experience, of course, but loss, it’s just been lurking around the edges, waiting for me to look it in the eye. The last few weeks have been so very hard on many people I love.

All too recently, some dear friends lost a child in a terrible accident. There are no words. Others lost a father and husband to cancer. A pet, still a baby and very loved, died from a birth defect. A marriage ended. A medical emergency almost cost a vibrant life.

And now the normal we all knew will never be normal again, and we have to learn to adjust to the changes, or at least hang on through the storm the best we can.

It’s in times of great loss that we’re forced to realize how helpless we are sometimes. It’s obvious in trying to comfort a friend when you want to make it all better, but all you can do is be there while the wind blows their world apart. But being there is so important. Showing up takes courage. Crying beside someone is its own gift, and better than some words of “wisdom” that just sound stupid because everyone knows there’s nothing really right to say.

Many others are suffering losses we don’t often speak about. We’re blaming ourselves, or feeling blamed, shamed, helpless. I’m dealing, every day, with the loss of my child, who is alive, but alienated from me and my family. And the rewriting of histories once shared and now misunderstood on all sides (including mine of course). And I’m worrying over things I can’t do anything about. I was warned a couple years ago that this would happen, and would get worse before it gets better, that my fears around what was happening were true. I was told that this would not be fixable in weeks or months, but in years. I didn’t believe that for a long time.

Now, though, now I haven’t seen my own child in over a year. Now I believe. And I grieve, and I cry, and I rage, and I laugh it off for awhile, and I pretend that everything is okay, and I cycle through the stages over and over again until I’m worn out and realize I have to take care of myself, keep going, keep getting stronger, better, more… well, me. And I have to always keep the door open, my heart open, and above all let go of the anger and the grudges. There’s been enough of that already. What matters is that I will be here as long as I’m alive, and I will welcome my amazing gift of a child with open arms, when that time comes. I’m not giving up.

And in the new normal I’m growing too. All those trite words about having to suffer to grow and so on that you see on Facebook,  I used to see them all blah blah blah, and say “what crap!” And now I’m seeing that this indeed is all part of a journey, and I’m lucky to be on it, and I’m getting braver, and kinder – to myself and others. I’m learning to lean on friends sometimes, and be there when they lean back. And I believe in my own goodness and worthiness. At least most of the time. It’s progress. And it takes practice. It is my life’s work.

What is lost won’t return in the same form. But we do carry those we’ve lost in our hearts. And my heart is full of love for my children, always and forever. For now that’s enough.


Deathbed – a short story


3816189I’m not trying to be cute with the title… This is a real short story. It’s under 800 words, so I guess the technical term is flash fiction. It’s also kind of sad. Sorry about that. It can be uplifting if you let it…

Peace One Day is coming up in a few short months. I’ve been thinking a lot about what brings us together and tears us apart. They ask the question “who will you make peace with?” and my personal answer is “myself.” Oh, wish me luck with that one.



It figures that now, at the end of my life, you’d show up and try to tell me you love me somehow. And with these tubes in my throat, you know I can’t ask you the hard questions. Where were you? Love me? You walked away with only your contempt to keep you warm and brave against your better judgment. And you’ve been together ever since. Where they hell were you?

They’re going to burn my body soon. I’ll be ashes in the wind. I’ve asked my family to throw a party, and throw me to the dolphins and sharks. It means nothing to me of course, I’ll be long gone. But I’ve told them it’s what I want because it’s what they want, and it’s what they need to hear.

I don’t think they will invite you, but I hope they do. They all want to know where you’ve been. They credit you with the breaking of my heart so long ago. I am dying to tell you so many things. You didn’t break it all, my heart. You tried so hard, and that’s what kept me from going over the edge. You tried so hard to ruin me, I felt the passion and love that struggled still, inside the contempt, inside you. You don’t have to tell me you love me. I’ve always known.

And then I discovered my own true heart. A place nobody can break, not even me. And I lived! Oh, the things I want to tell you. The amazing things I’ve seen and felt and done. The person is dusty and brittle, yes, but the memories, the slices of life I dished up, those will outlive us both. I’ve loved more truly since you left than I ever knew possible. The broken pieces of my heart were already weak before they shattered, and without them the best of me grew stronger. I came just a bit more alive with every month gone by. I’m sure you’ll hear some stories that will surprise you. That gives me comfort too. I want you to know I’m happy. I’ve been happy.

Oh where were you? I made art, and friends, and some damn hilarious jokes. I told you in all those notes I sent every month for years that I will never stop loving you. Yes, of course I love you still. And I forgave you, mostly, while you were still packing your things. I forgave the rest a little later, out of simple joy. There was no room left in me for the anger. I learned to live and thrive without you. I learned that pity isn’t healthy, and self-pity is a terrible drug addiction. I cured myself quickly. You were one hell of a shot in the arm.

And here I am, with questions that will never leave my lips, and with answers that you deserve to hear but never will. I can only look at you as you stand over me. You look old around the eyes now, but still so young inside, still unsure how to let the contempt slip away and leave you in the peace you so deeply need. I’d have been a better choice. I’m glad I can’t tell you that. It’s not what you need to hear. And so I’m glad for the notebook I left you. You’ll get it from my lawyers in a month or two, when the ashes have finally turned to soggy clumps and landed at the bottom, where sunshine is just a legend, and any food is good food. The notebook contains so many memories, some of us together, things you don’t even know you’ve forgotten. And many of my own memories of the years since you left. And it contains the forgiveness you may be ready to believe in. I know it will give you something to cling to, and I know sooner or later you will cry, and that will be the cry you need.

So I struggle to ask the one question that drives me to cling to life just a little bit longer. Just to hear your answer. I squeeze the words out and can tell as you lean toward me frowning that you haven’t heard me at all. I gather all I have left, and these will be my last words. I will live long enough for your answer, and then I will let go. With you leaning forward, I push the words through my lips, and I know they are good and solid, and you hear them, and you will answer.

“How are you?” I close my eyes a moment, and listen for your story. I hope it’s a good one.

Don’t walk, run! No, don’t run…


I’ve been running all my life, but I never seem to get anywhere. No I don’t mean jogging. Good Lord no. I mean running. Away.

I come from a family full of walls, so it’s pretty natural to solve problems or people by closing my eyes and pretending I can’t see them. Life gets hard, and I think immediately, I could get away, start over, and maybe things would just be peachy. I think I’m currently the only member of my birth family speaking, or trying to speak, to every other member. Could I leave all that behind? Hell yes.

Sigh. Hell no. Because as much as I’ve wished at times it would, ignoring people and problems isn’t going to make them disappear. The problem is, I want to open my eyes, and see what’s in front of me, who is in front of me, and I need to like what I see. Lately I dream night after night about my family. I try to make things alright, and of course, I fail. In real life, I’m practicing NOT trying to make things alright, and it’s downright refreshing. But my dreams are a reminder of failures of all kinds. I can’t run away from them, either, so I have to look at them up close and personal.

When I first started dating my husband, the one I’m married to now that is, I warned him that I have a run-away problem. And indeed, there were at least three moments of panic in the first year, that involved me saying goodbye forever and walking out the door. He was very patient with me. I still have my moments, still talk about that bus to nowhere, to anywhere but here. I still yell and storm off. But see, this man wasn’t raised like I was. He follows me, eventually. He tries to stay reasonable, which is not easy for him, either. He’s far from perfect, but what he does works because he doesn’t walk away like I do. He knows even in the terrible times that this, what we have, is valuable, that it will last through one stupid fight, that family is family even when that family is messed up with disorders, drugs, bad relationships, terrible behavior, whatever it is. I hate that it’s so hard for most of us to get that.

Of course, some people are just too toxic to one another. They just are. I get that, and I don’t know where those lines are. It’s personal for each of us. Obviously, people have to keep themselves safe. But I do believe that the lines can shift over time, and with help. I believe when you write someone off forever, you’re hurting yourself as well, forever. It’s up to each of us to manage which pain is worth it. I believe in forgiveness, where there’s meaningful apology. The kind offered willingly, with no excuses.

So I’m not getting on a bus, at least not so far. I’ll be here a while, struggling, screwing up, storming, trying again. And someday, hopefully, I’ll be here when my kids want to talk. When they realize that forever is really too big for hatred. It only fits comfortably with love.

Missing places I have never been

I find myself, now and again, missing places I have never been. ~me

These are my three favorite quotes:

3783182Expectation is the root of all heartache. ~Unknown (usually attrib. to Wm. Shakespeare)

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. ~John Lennon, from Beautiful Boy, which I used to sing to my son nightly

Never ruin an apology with an excuse. ~Kimberly Johnson


I never expected the life I’ve led, and I feel like I’ve been in a constant state of surprise from both the good and the bad for my whole life. When I was young, I never expected to be old. I was sure I’d die before I hit 20. Then 30… I’m still here at 47 in spite of some stupid mistakes and a couple of serious medical messes. I was never going to get married. I’ve been married twice. I was never going to bring kids into this crazy world. I’ve done that twice too.

Once, when I quit working in corporate America to stay home with my son, I vowed I would never return, and never, ever, work in a cubicle again. I was hired back into the fold the very month I began looking for work, the very month after separating from my first husband over five years ago now. My next two positions found me in cubicles with those shortened walls, the last one ending with my boss sitting literally an arm’s reach away to my left, munching on hard boiled eggs while I tried to inhale fresher air from the other direction.

I never thought I’d homeschool a child. And then my son was given a diagnosis, and evaluations, and trips to the principal’s office for a growing number of violations of other people’s space and well-being. I learned and adapted, and found some wonderful help along that path. I was never going to put my children on medications either, believing as I still do that we over-medicate in this country to an alarming degree. But, while I was busy making other plans, my children have managed to come up with a variety of creative and terrifying ways to harm themselves, and have needed some unexpected help. The one thing I expected that has always been true is that there’s nothing, within reason, that I won’t do for my kids.

But I’m in a weird place now, a place where those kids are full of anger, hatred, and blame for me for my many shortcomings, and some other things I can’t claim as my own. I knew, I expected that this could happen someday, because all children seem to go through some level of this thing. But when they were born, I believed I would have the support, and love, of their father, and a stable place to help them through their rougher years. I’ve tried to make stability my priority, but it wasn’t all mine to give. I’m sorry to my kids for my own lacking, and for the many disappointments they have endured, and the many more they will face along their paths. I hope they manage to find their own stable places someday, and live in peace.

So I’m standing now in a land I’ve never seen on any map, never contemplated. Uncharted territory. I’m going to recover from the heartache of my own failed expectations. I’m going to keep making other plans. And I’m certainly going to keep apologizing to those I’ve harmed, but not over and over again. Because now is the time to figure out where I am, and who, and to learn to forgive myself and those who have hurt me and the people I love most in this world. Along with the sorrows, I have so many unexpected wonders, new love, new family, a chance to work at meaningful things, and friends who know my worst and best, and have loved me throughout both.

And while I learn to let go of the places I will never, ever be, I will accept that missing them is a part of becoming who I will be. I was never promised an adventurous life, but that is exactly what this is.

Ya gotta believe…


Approaching the danger zone

I joke around about losing my sanity sometimes. But like most jokes, there’s a grain of truth in there that makes it funny.  It’s kind of like how sometimes I tell my kids I’m gonna have a stroke if they don’t settle down. I mean, I actually *had* a stroke, and I still come out with that one, second nature. But it’s been almost five years since the stroke, and the kids don’t panic about that anymore, I think.

Now if you ask me right out, I don’t think strokes are funny. I don’t think mental illness is funny. I joke because it keeps me from crying. I joke because it’s a beacon in the fog, and I could use the light.

From time to time, other people have tried to own my sanity, to define it for me. No, not the “experts” – they actually keep telling me I’m as sane as anyone else (which, you know, isn’t that reassuring). But I haven’t always been able to believe in myself. Rational me says “It’s okay, you lost your temper/swore at someone you love/told the dog you wanted to stab him with a fork. You are a good person, you’ve never hurt anyone on purpose, in fact you’re haunted by the memories of those people you’ve hurt even decades later, and that fork thing was pretty funny under the circumstances.” Rational me is… rational.

Irrational me has trouble making sense of stuff, and typically tries to blame me for everything. When someone says you’re crazy, everyone wonders. Even you. And the fact remains that I have hurt the people I love. However you define it, this stuff isn’t easy. I do suffer from depression sometimes. And I have trouble with expressing anger. I do it wrong often. It’s a fairly new thing to me. The mere idea that conflict is, or can be *normal* is really only about seven years old inside my head. Thank you therapy.  And only six years ago I learned that anger is just a feeling, and it’s okay to feel it, even if you can’t list a perfectly acceptable reason. I learned that yelling doesn’t mean you’re unstable. It means you’re mad. I learned that working things through is really healthy, and running or storming away is not. And I learned that apologizing means you’re strong (unless you apologize for breathing, a habit it took me a couple years to break).

Depression, bipolar, borderline, ADD – these things aren’t personal failings, they’re just something we’re born with or injuries we’ve sustained. Getting help when you think you might need it is a sign of incredible strength and bravery. You don’t have to suffer alone, and you don’t have to beat yourself up. You can get help, answers, and support. Everyone deserves those things. Even you, even me.

I’ve had a lot of crazy thrown at me in my lifetime. And I need to accept that I always will. But for now, until I hear from experts and friends alike that I need to worry, I’m going to try to trust myself. I know my own crazy pretty well. I’m working on the things that need work, and I really am sorry to everyone I’ve ever hurt. And of course I’m sure I’ll hurt someone again. Screwing up is normal too. Anyway, if you hear me joking, please joke along, and if I need it, help me up, and I’ll do the same for you.

Sarah smiles

Sarah smiles

I would walk for miles, for one of Sarah’s smiles.

There are words forming in my head in a language that this keyboard doesn’t recognize. Maybe anyone who’s ever watched their beloved children hurting can speak it too. My daughter isn’t happy, although she has memories of being so. She has a drive for more, and nothing ever seems enough. And yet, the trip we just took to Disneyworld gave us both a glimpse inside “enough,” into what it could feel like. She’s a tough girl! She beat her fear of flying just to get there. She beat her fear of coasters, and rode so many times I lost count, although she didn’t, and she would tell you if you asked. She spent a lot of the trip not smiling, but content enough. Then the night-time parade came through Main Street USA, with snow that she knew was made of soap but maybe that just added to her excitement, and with hot cocoa, and free apple slices and cookies. This was just after the fireworks that literally filled our sky from all directions and lit us both up like little girls. The fireworks had come just after meeting an admittedly slightly intimidating mouse in his own backyard. The goosebumps were still fresh from that, a surprise to both of us, but welcome.

Then the parade. She’s never liked parades, according to her. I have different memories, filled with small-town parades and her chasing after candy in the streets, catching all she could. But still we sat, with our good friends, and waited, watching the crowds forming and feeling that electricity of anticipation that makes the hair on your arms rise up, just a little. Disney magic does not often disappoint. The parade was magical, and we pointed and laughed and delighted in recognizing characters we each grew up knowing so well. I saw her excitedly spot each princess, then shrug it off, because she outgrew that stuff, long ago, she says. Then in one amazing moment, the Fairy Godmother went by, THE Fairy Godmother. And she looked right at Sarah, and she winked. And blew a special kiss right to her. That kiss was loaded with real magic, and it brought my girl’s smile back to us, if only for one wonderful night. “I feel special” she said, wonder in her voice. You are special, Sarah, so very special, Godmother or not. We watched the rest, the dancers, the toy soldiers, the whole Goofy lot of them. Then Santa came and blew her a kiss too, before heading back to the beach to rest up for December. We had to hurry then, to catch all the rides we could before midnight. She and her good friend and I closed Space Mountain that night, walking away wishing for just one more ride.

There really is nothing like Disneyworld, especially at midnight. You can really feel the special everywhere.

We’re home now, and Sarah seems to have lost her smile again, although I catch glimpses. I can’t afford to take her back to her Fairy Godmother, maybe not again in her first childhood. But we sure could use that smiling round happy lady around here, both of us. Keeping the magic alive is a challenge here in the Real World. I hope we can figure it out, and Sarah smiles again.


Stop detailing my depression

like you were the only one in it

Stop smoking the ghosts of our pasts

and just pretend we’re both sane for a minute


Stop cruelly despoiling my history

to explain my recoiling from you

Stop dragging me down through your gutter

and obstructing my halcyon view


Stop fingernailing my fault lines

with the extended claws of a judge

Stop wrapping your self-justifications

to embrace your unholy war grudge


Stop passing out my report cards

when we both know I won’t make your grade

Stop advocating for bitterness

so our children can live unafraid


Stop wallowing on through our past lives

when we both have new places to go

Stop waiting for me to keep fighting

’cause I stopped all of that long ago



%d bloggers like this: